Annie Leibovitz
SAL Presents Icon

SAL Presents

Annie Leibovitz

Past Event: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

Sponsored by Goldman Sachs & Co.

Annie Leibovitz was studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970 when she signed up for a night class in photography. Not long after, she shot a photograph of some ladders in an apple orchard, sent the image to Robert Kingsbury, then the art director of Rolling Stone, and was hired immediately and quickly promoted to chief photographer. In 1975 she went on the road with the Rolling Stones, photographing Sly Stone, Tammy Wynette, and the life of rock n’ roll on the open road. By the end of the decade she was irrevocably cool.

In 1983 Leibovitz moved from Rolling Stone to Vanity Fair and in 1998 added Vogue to her resumé. Larger budgets gave her significantly more leeway to conceive her imagination’s desires, and with them she shot the luminaries of the time in settings of intense and informal glamour. Movie stars, artists, athletes, and politicians have all come under her gaze, and in each image she has revealed something between nothing and everything. ”I don’t mind doing something obvious,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. ”I’m not looking for the ultimate image, the ultimate essence of someone. The chances of that happening are few and far between.” What she sets up, time and again, are images that bring the viewer into some sort of intimacy with the subject, even if only imagined: John Lennon curled around Yoko Ono; Demi Moore naked and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair; Bruce Springsteen’s backside; Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub of milk.

With otherworldly celebrities Leibovitz uses bright light to frame bodies, underexposes backgrounds to create a supernatural cast. For Olympians she shoots grainy silver gelatins, bronzing muscles, and bodies in flight with Grecian splendor. “A Leibovitz shot of a famous man or woman languishing on a settee or shaving in front of a bathroom mirror owes more to a Thomas Gainsborough portrait of a smirking earl seated in his lovely study, one foot resting on his knee, than it does to any recognizable photographic reference,” noted Ginia Bellafante for the New York Times. “Unlike Avedon, who shoots his subjects against blank backgrounds, her emphasis is almost completely on context.” Her background in painting may have given her this specific sense of light and composition, but that alone does not explain her signature style, so infused with intuition. Perhaps it is something she says to her subjects, or perhaps it is her own privacy that lets people expose themselves to her. Regardless, while her set-ups may be the most imitated of any photographer, no one has yet achieved her intimacy.

In addition to her magazine editorial work, Leibovitz has created advertising campaigns for American Express, the Gap, Givenchy, The Sopranos, and the Milk Board. She has exhibited widely, and her journalistic and personal work has been collected in six books: PhotographsPhotographs 1970-1990Olympic Portraits (from the Atlanta games), WomenAmerican Music, and A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005, a catalog for the traveling exhibit that debuted at the Brooklyn Museum in October 2006. Of the last, featuring personal photographs of her family, her three daughters, and her lover, Susan Sontag, Leibovitz said, “With Susan it was a love story. With my parents it was the relationship of a lifetime. And with my children it’s the future. I just tried to create an honest work that had all those things in it.”

Excerpt from Annie Leibovitz at Work (2008)
When I first worked for Rolling Stone, in the early ’70s, we wouldn’t photograph a band until they came to town. I hardly ever traveled. I took some pictures of the Rolling Stones when they came through San Francisco in 1971 and 1972. Truman Capote was supposed to write a story for the magazine about the 1972 tour, and the editor, Jann Wenner, said it was O.K. if I went along to two or three cities . . .

I learned about power on that tour. About how people in an audience can lose a sense of themselves and melt into a frenzied, mindless mass. Mick and Keith had tremendous power both on and offstage. They would walk into a room like young gods. I found that my proximity to them lent me power also. A new kind of status. It didn’t have anything to do with my work. It was power by association.

I’ve been on many tour buses and at many concerts, but the best photographs I’ve made of musicians at work were done during that Rolling Stones tour. I probably spent more time on it than on any other subject. For me, the story about the pictures is about almost losing myself, and coming back, and what it means to be deeply involved in a subject. You can get amazing work, but you’ve got to be careful. The thing that saved me was that I had my camera by my side. It was there to remind me who I was and what I did. It separated me from them.

Selected Work
Annie Leibovitz at Work (2008)
A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 (2006)
American Music (2004)
Women (2000)
Olympic Portraits (1996)
Photographs 1970-1990 (1991)
Photographs (1983)

PBS American Masters
Powell’s interview
In conversation with Jane Sarkin O’Connor of Vanity Fair

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).


The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. ChargePoint charging stations are available for electric vehicles. Visit the Benaroya Hall website for event pricing.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Tuesday-Friday, from 12 noon–5 p.m., at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.